The Flyers lost their sixth-straight on Wednesday in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Islanders, but there was more to it than just the box score. Here are 10 observations from the proceedings...in no particular order.
First line clicking as usual
Though the dangerous Flyers’ top line finished with just three points, they drove play with each linemate accounting for a Corsi-For of at least 53% on the night. Jake Voracek had the lone goal, but Sean Couturier was robbed of one just about a minute into the game on a big save by Isles goalie Thomas Greiss.
Even with the team finally getting some secondary scoring from Michael Raffl and Taylor Leier, it seems that the Flyers will only go as far as their top line takes with depth scoring coming so infrequently.
Return of the Raffl
Alright so he never really went anywhere, but given he’s been pointless to date, it was fair to ask whether or not the eye test would ever catch up with any production from the Austrian.
Despite being pointless, Raffl was solid as a part of The Honey Bees on Dave Hakstol’s fourth line along with Scott Laughton and Taylor Leier. That line, in fact, has been easily the Flyers’ second most effective line this season behind “Gingervitis” - or the “Gingerbeard Men”, if you will.
The issue with the fourth line was that no one was showing up on the scoring sheet, which has been a surprise considering Raffl has played top six minutes and even gotten run with Claude Giroux and Voracek on the top line in his time with the Flyers.
Well, all that was put to rest Wednesday as Raffl was arguably the Flyers’ best forward on the ice. He finished off a beautiful lead pass from Ivan Provorov and finished on the breakaway with a nice move on Greiss.
Secondary scoring, finally.
Desperate for some depth scoring, the Flyers finally got some on Wednesday thanks to Raffl and Taylor Leier, who opened the scoring. It was strong work from Scott Laughton on the Leier goal to keep the puck alive in the Isles’ zone and find Travis Sanheim jumping into the fire with a puck to the on Greiss. Leier was there for the rebound to punch home his first goal since December of last year.
Leier did a good job driving the net and got rewarded on the play, but not lost should be the work of Laughton, who had just one assist in 10 games prior or Sanheim, who has been doing a great job of getting pucks on net.
Unfortunately, that’s where the secondary scoring stopped in this one as Jake Voracek and the top line created the other goal, but it was a step in the right direction as other depth guys like Travis Konecny had strong games but didn’t show up on the scoring sheet.
Martel’s NHL debut
In the pursuit of more scoring, the Flyers called up Danick Martel, the AHL’s leading goal scorer. The diminutive Martel is listed at 5-foot-8 and 162 pounds but has a boatload of quickness and offensive sense that the Flyers hope to see going forward.
For his debut, he created a takeaway in one of his first shifts and sped in on a semi-breakaway that he just unable to beat Greiss on. He finished the night with four blocked shots - which led the team - and fired three shots.
His advanced stats weren’t great with a Corsi-For of 39%, but he was saddled with Valterri Filppula and Konecny, who aren’t world beaters in their own zone. For now, the Flyers will look for a spark offensively and not much else from the 22-year-old.
Penalty kill struggles early, but redeems itself later
The first two Islanders goals came via the man-advantage in this one and it looked like the Flyers’ ugly penalty kill would again doom them, but the unit did recover to kill off the last three penalties they faced in this one.
On Mathew Barzal’s power play marker the Flyers’ penalty kill was hemmed in deep in front of Brian Elliott. Though it was a five-on-four, it looked like a five-on-three with how compressed the four Flyers got in tight to their crease. The Islanders took advantage and worked the puck around until Barzal had a lane and didn’t make a mistake. It was too much room to give and not enough puck pressure from the Flyers out on the kill.
Johnny Boychuk’s power play goal came on a two-man advantage thanks to a delay of game penalty to Sam Morin, but more on that in a minute. Five-on-threes aren’t easy to defend but the Flyers did a nice job letting Boychuk, not exactly Erik Karlsson, get the good chances instead of Tavares and Co.
Problem was that Boychuk ended up picking the top corner on a one-timer, which there’s no way he did on purpose. Nevertheless, sometimes you just have to tip your cap on perfect shots like that.
The good news was that the Flyers came up with three massive kills —including two back-to-back in the third during a 3-3 game— the rest of the way, which was a huge reason they were able to escape with a point.
Morin struggles in season debut
Sam Morin waited patiently to get into the lineup this season and it looked like he was pressing in this one. His delay of game resulted in a goal and could have been avoided if he was a little more confident with the puck on his stick in his own zone. His second penalty also gave the Isles a chance to break the tie and it was a bad one as he lost track of where Jason Chimera was.
Things will get better for Morin, who looked anything but smooth at times, but the Flyers aren’t looking for him to drive play offensively they’re looking for him to give them good penalty kill minutes and block some shots for now.
Brian Elliott was masterful
If you watched you already know how ridiculous some of the saves Elliott made in this one were. His unique style was on display as he flopped all over the place to keep the Flyers within reach of points in this one.
In all he made 35 saves on 39 shots but deserved a better fate given that he had no chance on nearly every Islanders goal. The veteran was also the backbone of those back-to-back penalty kills in the third that were crucial to the Flyers securing a much-needed point.
Did I mention that he also threw it back with a sick two-pad stack in the second period that brought back some crazy 90’s goalie nostalgia. You don’t see them much anymore, and that’s too bad because they’re awesome.
The side-of-net Simmonds play delivers
The Flyers have lived off this power play move for years but it hasn’t produced this season. It’s simple as Giroux hits Wayne Simmonds at the side of the net on the goalies hip, then Simmonds spins toward the net or fires a backdoor pass to Voracek.
It’s been a staple on the power play for years but hasn’t clicked a lot until tonight when Simmonds turned and fired a perfect pass to Voracek who was able to tie things up a 3-3.
Simmonds hasn’t been himself to through 20-ish games, and he hasn’t scored since Oct. 21, but he’s still a threat that teams have to respect on the power play and that creates chances for his teammates.
It wasn’t a banner game for Shayne Gostisbehere, folks. Besides the obvious part where he lost Josh Bailey on the game-winning goal, it wasn’t a good night for the Flyers’ high-scoring defenseman all-around.
He sat at a Corsi For of 37% for the night, didn’t make crisp breakout passes that we normally see and lost more coverages than Nnamdi Asomugha. Though he’s not gonna to be confused with Chris Pronger defensively, he’s got to be better than he’s been lately and maybe all of his banter with the officials is affecting his play.
Feels good to get back in the Metro
It’s nice to see a division opponent for once, as the last one came all the way back on Oct. 14 against the Caps. It’s a takeaway because the Flyers will be loaded up with a ton of division games the rest of the way and will need to step their game up in what is a terribly competitive division this season.
As it sat stands the Flyers sit last in the Metro but are just eight points out of first place.